The Avalanche went 0-4 on the power play again and gave up a pair of costly goals to players coming out of the penalty box.
*A quick note I didn't realize I was on recap duty until midway through the second period, so this recap will go from way less detailed to way more detailed at that point in time.
The Avalanche started out with a bang in this one. Just 2:20 seconds into the game, Alex Tanguay collected the puck near his bench and skated it down the left side boards creating a 2-on-1 opportunity with John Mitchell and P.K. Subban. Tanguay passed across the crease to Mitchell, who deftly touched the puck back to Tanguay for an easy tap-in and the always-valuable early lead.
Play was relatively even throughout the first period, though Montreal got the better of the Avalanche in terms of shots (of course). The Avalanche could have easily scored their 2nd and 3rd goals in the first period off the stick of Matt Duchene, but the Avalanche's star forward couldn't beat Cary Price, or his iron friends. On the first chance, Jarome Iginla spun and passed behind his back to Matt Duchene who rushed the shot and failed to elevate over Price's outstretched pad. On the second opportunity later in the period, Duchene cut through the crease and fired the puck off a Montreal defender, recovered the puck and fired low of Price's right leg, then recovered the puck again where he fired the puck off the shaft of Price's stick, then the left post and crossbar. Bad luck for Duchene, who skated to the bench looking skyward. You could see the pain in the eyes as he watched the replay.
Pickard played a strong first period and made a number of good saves, including a clutch stop on a Max Pacioretty breakaway after a Nate Guenin turnover. While the shot counter finished at 17-10 in favor of the Canadiens, the Avalanche seemed to control the majority of the play, and certainly had the most dangerous chances of the period.
The second period started off fine for the Avalanche, with the Nathan MacKinnon line generated a solid offensive possession and a shot on net. After relatively solid Avalanche play over the first 2:30 of the period Patrick Roy sent his 4th line out on the ice. They were badly hemmed in their own zone and eventually took a penalty, chasing the Canadiens around the zone. On the power play the Canadiens cycled the puck back to PK Subban, who fired a cannon past Calvin Pickard. 1-1.
This is where things fell apart for the Avalanche, with the Canadiens absolutely dominating while rookie Calvin Pickard did everything in his power to keep his team in the game. Halfway through the second period the Avalanche took to the power play again in hopes of re-igniting the long-lost offense of the first period. As has become the norm for the Avalanche power play, we saw about 1:45 seconds of turnovers, screwing around in the neutral zone, and other overall garbage play when a simple carry-in and shoot would do just fine. With 7 seconds left in the power play Ryan O'Reilly finally generated a solid opportunity coming out of the corner and receiving a pass from Erik Johnson behind the net. O'Reilly was stopped by Price's pad and the Candiens quickly cleared the puck. As the power play expired, Alex Galchenyuk jumped out of the penalty box and stole the puck to give himself a breakaway. Jan Hejda and Alex Tanguay, the pointmen, were unable to catch the Montreal forward, who beat Pickard to give the Habs a 2-1 lead.
How would the Avalanche respond? the 4th line came out and actually generated possession in the offensive zone, but rather than continue that possession and try to put the puck on net Cody McLeod picked a fight with the much larger Jarred Tinordi (4 inch and 15 pound difference) and lost. 0-3 in fights this year for McLeod. I just don't get it.
After a few more dominating shifts from the Canadiens, the Avalanche finally set up again in the Habs zone. After a few weak passes near the point, Nick Holden turned over the puck on the left side and sent a Montreal player racing down the ice. All the Avalanche backcheckers chased him to the corner, leaving Brandon Prust wide open on the Avalanche doorstep. Prust fired a one timer low to the corner, but Pickard made the save. The next few minutes were brutal, boring, turnover ridden hockey all around with a few one and done possessions for the Avalanche and lots of long possessions for the Avalanche.
Finally there was some hope when the Avalanche had a 2-on-1 with Gabe Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon. Landeskog opted to shoot the puck and missed wide. That is the 3rd 2-on-1 this game that did not result in a shot on goal. In the first half of the power play the Avalanche mustered a few shots from near the boards, then gave up a 1-on-1 rush to Max Paccioretty, who pinged the puck off the low post. The last minute of the power play resulted in one weak wrist shot by Matt Duchene which connected squarely with the Habs logo on Carey Price's chest. When the Avalanche penalty expired.... stop me if you've heard this one before.... The Canadiens sent the puck down the ice and the Montreal player flew out of the box to grab the puck for a one-on-one with Tyson Barrie. Barrie fell into his own net completely unprovoked and allowed PK Subban to dance around the back of the net then deke Calvin Pickard out of his AHL jock. 3-1 Canadiens. Seriously folks, this is a joke.
Now realizing that taking a penalty results in at least one free breakaway, the Canadiens quickly took another one and sent the Avalanche to their 5th power play of the night. The second period mercifully ended 3-1, with 46 seconds left on the Avalanche "man discrepancy."
How do you know this season sucks? We get this garbage in the intermission.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Cox: Ilya Bryzgalov's agent reached out to <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Avs?src=hash">#Avs</a>. Not interested right now.</p>— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) <a href="https://twitter.com/NicholsOnHockey/status/523640127013543936">October 19, 2014</a></blockquote>
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The Avalanche came out and failed to do anything with the puck in the remaining power play time. There was a scare moment as the clock hit 18:40, when Pickard went to play the puck behind the his own net and watched the puck deflect off the boards and in front of his gaping net. An Avalanche defenseman was able to deflect the puck away. Nathan MacKinnon led the ensuing rush up the right side and despite creating an inside track the Montreal net, failed to register a shot on net.
The Avalanche did have a few good shifts over the first 4 minutes. With the third line on the ice Erik Johnson pinched into the low slot and separated the Montreal defenseman from the puck, instead of shooting, Johnson opted for a pass towards Daniel Briere at the right post, but he overshot the Avs' winger. On the next shift Matt Duchene and Jarome Iginla generated a number of good scoring chances, but Carey Price stood tall. The Habs had a few more good chances in the earlygoing as the Avs' 4th line took to the ice. Jiri (not Sakic) Sekac had a wide open chance in front of the Avs net after leaving his man (Cody McLeod) gliding behind him in the high slot.
At this point the Canadiens once again took control of the ice, spending long shifts in the Avalanche zone and eventually leading to a Jan Hejda hooking penalty. In the first seconds of the power play Maxime Talbot and Marc Andre Cliche rushed down the ice for a 2-on-1 opportunity against PK Subban. They, like the majority of the Avs' odd man rushes tonight, failed to register a shot on goal. The Avs killed the penalty thanks to a huge save from Calvin Pickard on former Av PA Parenteau, then started to push the pace a little.
After the power play Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay put together two beautiful passes to set Matt Duchene up for his third gaping wide open net of the evening. Duchene couldn't elevate the puck, and shot into Price's leg. Just an incredible save by Carey Price, fully extended and falling forward, he caught Duchene's shot with the blade of his skate. On the next faceoff Nathan MacKinnon fired the puck straight into Price point blank.
In the final 10:00 Montreal shifted to what can only be described as a "Full Prevent Defense" and Matt Duchene turned on Man-Mode, fighting for every inch of ice he could to try and get his team back within one. It's worth noting that if there is one positive to take from this game (and believe me it's hard to find one) it's that Iginla and Duchene have really started to read off of one another better in the last two games.
With 5:00 to go the Avalanche had one of their most embarrassing defensive sequences of the night. Brad Stuart attempted to break the puck out with speed (are you kidding me?) and got stripped in the neutral zone, giving up a 2v1 the other way, when Stuart caught up with the play and re-took the puck, he turned and blindly fired it up ice into a Montreal defender. Montreal chipped the puck back in where Erik Johnson attempted a breakout and ran into the back of Brad Stuart, then instead of making a pass, turned and rimmed the puck around the boards behind Pickard to no one, the clear wasn't hard enough to get past the hashmarks, so the puck went straight to a Montreal forward. I'm not trying to pick on Stuart or EJ in particular here, because all 6 Avs d men did this kind of garbage all night. I just thought it was a hilarious sequence that needed to be catalogued.
At 2:44 the Avalanche gained possession of the puck long enough for Patrick Roy to pull Calvin Pickard. When they did they Avs quickly flew up the ice. Jarome Iginla on the right wing fired a puck low at Carey Price and Matt Duchene outmuscled a pair of Montreal defenseman to reach out and redirect the puck to the five-hole. Moments later Nathan MacKinnon had a near breakaway but bobbled the puck on the left wing and turned it over. After some scrambling in their own zone, the Avalanche reestablished solid possession in the Habs zone with 30 seconds to go and Matt Duchene set up Alex Tanguay and Jamie McGinn with doorstep chances on back to back passes. Neither guy got good wood on the attempts. With 20 seconds left the Avalanche set up for a faceoff in the Canadiens zone, with Johnson, Barrie, Mitchell, Iginla, Duchene, O'Reilly as the guys responsible for tying this game up. The Avs failed to establish solid possession, but got a second chance with 9 seconds left as Montreal iced the puck. The Avs won the faceoff back to Tyson Barrie, who took a few steps towards center and fired the puck off a Montreal forwards ankles, the puck bounced straight to John Mitchell who's stick snapped in half as he attempted to fire the puck towards the Montreal net. Game over.
Three Stars of the Game:
1. Matt Duchene - You could see him, especially in the 1st and 3rd periods doing everything he could to carry this team on his back.
2. Calvin Pickard - A very good showing from the rookie goalie. Made a number of key saves and had no soft goals. He deserved better from his team, who gave up at least 4 breakaways in the game.
3. Avalanche fans - For supporting this team despite such a poor start.
What Needs to Happen Next:
1. Shoot the damn puck. Whether it's the power play, or the number of big time opportunity 2-on-1's tonight, the Avalanche need to get the puck on the net. That's how you score.
2. Your best players need to be your best players. That means you Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O`Reilly and Erik Johnson. Get it together.
3. Your players on the ice need to be the best players you have available. That means you Patrick Roy. This isn't the good ol' boys club, this is a competition, use the best lineup possible.
The Avalanche head home to take on the equally woeful 1-2-1 Florida Panthers.
Puck drops at 9:00 PM EST, 7:00 PM MST